Wealden District Council

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Complaints Procedure

You can make your complaint by using our online complaints form.

Why do we need a complaint procedure?

Wealden District Council aims to provide good quality services on every occasion but sometimes things can go wrong. The purpose of the complaint procedure is to find out what went wrong and try to put things right for the future. If you are dissatisfied with the standard of service, the actions or lack of action by the Council, its employees or anyone providing services on behalf of the Council, we would like you to let us know so that we can put things right. The complaint procedure helps us to do this. Your complaint will be:

  • Recorded in the register of complaints and acknowledged;
  • Dealt with as quickly as possible;
  • Handled courteously and fairly;
  • Investigated fully.

The complaint procedure is intended to deal with specific situations such as serious mistakes, prolonged delay or inefficiency.

If your complaint is regarding one of the services provided by an external contractor (such as grounds maintenance, housing repairs or cleaning) working on behalf of the council, the complaint should be made in the first instance through the contractor's complaints procedure (see separate guidance on Waste & Recycling complaints below). Taking complaints directly to the relevant contractor usually results in a more speedy and effective resolution and the Council monitors all complaints made directly to the contractor. However if a satisfactory result is not forthcoming the complaint may then be taken through the Council's own procedure.

Some things which can be dealt with more effectively in other ways are not treated as a complaint.

Examples of those are listed below so please think carefully about whether your situation falls into one of those categories before seeking to use the complaint procedure explained later on this page.

Things which we do not treat as a complaint

A complaint against the Council needs to say what the Council itself has done wrong.

  • In general, complaints about bin collection (unless multiple failures can be demonstrated, i.e. failure to collect the same missed bin after two reports are logged with the contractor), litter, neighbours, noise, food establishments etc will be treated as requests to do something about them, i.e. requests for service.
  • Disagreement with a planning permission, enforcement decision or other regulatory activity. (As the law currently stands, a planning decision is binding and there is no right of appeal, except by the recipient to the Planning Inspectorate.)
  • Where there is some other legal remedy or statutory right of appeal, for example in respect of certain planning, housing and taxation matters.
  • Disagreement with a policy or decision lawfully made by the Council. These will be monitored by the Directorate concerned and, in appropriate cases, reported to the relevant Councillor(s).
  • Complaints which allege financial impropriety or criminal activity. These will be dealt with by the Chief Executive or a Corporate Director providing evidence to substantiate the allegation is supplied with the complaint.

Complaints that a Councillor has breached the Code of Conduct for Members should be referred to:

The Monitoring Officer,
Wealden District Council,
Vicarage Lane,
East Sussex, BN27 2AX

To make a complaint against a Councillor, follow the guidance on making a complaint about the conduct of a Councillor or phone Democratic Services on 01892 602437.

How do you make your complaint?

You can make your complaint by telephone, in writing, email, using our online complaints form or in person. A complaint should normally be made within 12 months of knowing about the problem. It will help us to deal with your complaint if you explain briefly and accurately:

  • What you are complaining about;
  • When it happened (or should have happened);
  • Why and how you think we should have done things differently;
  • What you think the Council should do to put things right.

We will acknowledge your complaint within one working day and aim to reply fully within ten working days.  If your complaint cannot be resolved to your satisfaction by the first investigation (Stage 1), you can ask for an independent Head of Service plus a Councillor to review how your complaint was dealt with, (Please see Stage 2 notes later on this page under 'Council related complaints').

Complaints received by the Council are broken down into the following three categories:

  • Social Housing complaints
  • Council Related Complaints
  • Waste and Recycling complaints

Social Housing (Landlord) complaints

The Localism Act 2011 brought in some important changes to how complaints about the landlord role of Housing Services are handled. Further information on this can be found at LGO - Complaints About Social Housing (external link)

Complaints about Social Housing will continue to go through Stages 1 and 2 of our internal complaints procedure (see below).  However, if we cannot put things right, or you remain unhappy with the response, you have the right to approach a designated person. A designated Person (external link) is a District Councillor, an MP or a recognised Tenants' Panel.

Stage 3 has changed; if the complaints procedure has been followed and you are still not happy with the response, you can now approach the Housing Ombudsman (external link). A designated person can also make a referral to the Housing Ombudsman.

Council Related Complaints (other than Social Housing (Landlord) and Waste and Recycling Complaints)

Stage 1

Your complaint will be co-ordinated by the Information Governance Officer. They will work closely with senior management from the department concerned. It is the Council's aim to resolve all complaints at this stage. An acknowledgement will be sent informing you of the procedure.

The Council's aim is to provide you with a full reply to your complaint within 10 working days of receipt. Our reply will also explain how you can ask us to look at your complaint again should you feel material facts have been overlooked or misconstrued. If you can demonstrate such grounds, you can ask for your complaint to be escalated to Stage 2. Simply disagreeing with the outcome would not normally be deemed sufficient grounds.

Stage 2

All requests to escalate a complaint to Stage 2 will be reviewed by the Head of Customer Services or, if they were involved in the original complaint, an independent Head of Service. If they consider that there are sufficient grounds to proceed, a full investigation will be made by an independent Head of Service together with a Councillor.

An acknowledgement will be sent upon receipt of a Stage 2 complaint request. The Council's aim is to provide you with a full reply within 20 working days of receipt of your request.

If your complaint is found to be justified, the Council will take appropriate action to remedy the situation as quickly as it can. If we feel there are insufficient grounds to consider the complaint under our Stage 2 process we will write to you and you may then, if you wish, refer your complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman website (external link)

Stage 3

If you are still not satisfied you can ask the Local Government Ombudsman to carry out an independent examination of your complaint. Further information can be found on the Local Government Ombudsman (external link) website or by calling the LGO Advice Team on 0300 061 0614

Waste and Recycling complaints

Stage 1

Your complaint will be passed to the contractor who will investigate your complaint at  Stage 1. It is the contractor's aim to resolve all complaints at this stage. The contractor will acknowledge your complaint within 1 working day and respond fully in writing within 10 working days.

If you are not satisfied with this initial response you can ask the contractor to review it. This will be done by a manager who will respond in writing within 10 working days.

If you are still not satisfied with the second response from the contractor and can demonstrate sufficient grounds, you can ask for your complaint to be escalated to Stage 2, which will be handled internally by the Council. Simply disagreeing with the outcome from the contractor would not normally be deemed sufficient grounds.

Stage 2 and 3

Will follow the same process as outlined in stage 2 and 3 procedure outlined in 'Council related Complaints'

Putting things right

If your complaint is found to be justified, the Council will take appropriate action to remedy the situation.